music • 21.08.11
Art and commerce are not so contradictory. They are different elements of a process. Anyone can produce a piece of artistic work if they have the impulse and the talent. Trying to get that work into circulation and make it stick is much more difficult. Artists are often contemptuous of that process as if it’s outside their remit. Yet surely there is hardly one among us who wouldn't jump at the prospect of wider acceptance. To be rewarded for your art is very nice work if you can get it. You do the thing you want to do, you enjoy doing it, and then you get applauded and paid. Who wouldn’t want that?
All the great artists throughout history were great not just because of what they did but because what they did was accepted by significant numbers. Without acceptance a particular work has no value beyond what it means to its creator and possibly those in the immediate circle. The context into which the work is presented is what gives it its value; it is as important as the work itself. That context is where commercial interests kick in. To say that art and commerce are incompatible is to ignore the importance of context. They are different aspects of the same thing. The commercial world is the environment where artworks are circulated, appraised, controlled and rewarded. This keeps the creators solvent. At least it's supposed to. That the rewards sometimes go way beyond solvent toward excess is a feature of rampant capitalism and applies to art as it does any other commodity. If you are attached to a hit you will score big.
You can't have meaning in art without context. The context includes business and money-making. Many can perform but if they want to do it to an audience someone has to find a venue, make a stage, provide equipment, organise tickets, tell others about it, sort out the money, pay those involved for their efforts and so on. Artists generally don't do this. They need players. Players control the context. They are often hated for their conniving and controlling but they are necessary beasts. Without them nothing happens. Without the Epsteins, Geffens, Bransons and Blackwells there would never have been the great cultural phenomena with which they were associated. They are the conduits and they are gold-dust.
without the businessmen nothing happens